CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With many schools across the state scheduled to open within the next couple of weeks, the West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education want to remind motorists to exercise extra caution.
A survey of West Virginia school transportation directors in the spring of 2014 showed that on any given school day approximately 500 motorists illegally passed stopped school buses, putting the lives of schoolchildren at risk of injury or death.
Increased awareness by cooperation between school transportation departments and local law enforcement agencies has slightly decreased stop arm passing, but there is still much improvement to be made.
“School bus transportation is still the safest way to get children to school each day,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Chuck Heinlein. “Yet, when motorists fail to obey the law, they endanger the lives of our children, our drivers and themselves. It is our responsibility as parents, students, bus operators, motorists and school administrators to obey the law and provide a safe ride for our children.”
Each year in West Virginia, about 224,000 students climb aboard 3,700 buses that safely travel more than 48 million miles to and from school.
“We ask motorists to be extremely cautious, pay attention and obey the bus signals while the students are being loaded and unloaded from the bus,” Heinlein said. “Avoid the urge to use your cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. Not only is it now against the law to do so in West Virginia, it is a real threat to the safety of our children.”
With the increased technology to identify drivers with better equipped bus camera systems, those who fail to stop when a school bus stops and flashes its warning lights can be charged with a felony if their actions result in injury or death. A driver who causes an injury faces up to three years in prison; a driver who kills someone could be put in prison for up to 10 years. Drivers who simply fail to stop can be charged with a misdemeanor and jailed up to six months.